Practical Bamboos: The 50 Best Plants for Screens, Containers and More

Practical Bamboos: The 50 Best Plants for Screens, Containers and More

by Paul Whittaker


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Practical Bamboos features the 50 best bamboos based on appearance and usefulness. A handy checklist allows readers to pick plants that are right for them at a glance. A section on using bamboo in the garden covers topics such as incorporating bamboos in the mixed border, using them to create Japanese-style or Mediterranean-style gardens, using them for hedges and edging, establishing them in containers, choosing the right ones for difficult places, and selecting the best plants for small gardens or waterside planting.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781604690569
Publisher: Timber Press, Incorporated
Publication date: 10/12/2010
Pages: 176
Sales rank: 907,284
Product dimensions: 7.50(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Paul Whittaker has worked in horticulture for more than thirty years as a nurseryman, landscaper and consultant. With his wife, Diana, he runs a nursery, PW Plants in Norfolk, England, that specializes in ornamental grasses and bamboos. Paul has won many RHS gold medals for his foliage displays at Royal Horticultural Society shows. He also contributes articles to gardening magazines, lectures widely, appears on local radio programs and holds workshops and events at his nursery and garden.

Read an Excerpt

As the owner of a nursery, visitors to my premises frequently ask me which is my favourite bamboo. After twenty years of growing them, this is never the easiest question to answer. Many of the enquirers are beginners on a quest to acquire their first bamboo, while others are addicts who don’t want to miss out on an essential addition to their collection. Beginner and experienced customers alike use this question as an opening gambit to seek out good advice, which you should never make a bamboo purchase without. This is hopefully also one of the reasons you are reading this book.
Out of some 350 or more temperate bamboos, approximately one quarter of these are normally available for general sale and around half are available in very small quantities annually, invariably from specialist nurseries. The remaining quarter are extremely rare due to difficulty in propagation, finicky growing methods or hoarding by addicted amateurs – to acquire one of these, you will undoubtedly need to go on a waiting list or get involved in some serious bribing and bartering. For the purposes of this book, a number of the generally available bamboos will make up the majority of the selection featured here, with a few rare examples thrown in to whet your appetite for more of a challenge in years to come. All of the bamboos included in this book have been tried and tested. As a group, they are versatile and valuable garden plants that cover a wide range of heights, habits and uses. There are no disappointments here and I often tell my customers that if they don’t succeed with these, they should give up on bamboos completely!
To return to the opening question, I don’t really have a favourite bamboo, although I did write in my previous book, Hardy Bamboos: Taming the Dragon, that Phyllostachys aureosulcata f. spectabilis would be my desert island bamboo, meaning that if I could choose only one, this would be it. To repeat a famous British television slogan, “It does everything it says on the tin,” meaning that this plant has all the characteristics that a good bamboo should: colourful culms (canes), evergreen leaves and it is very hardy and quick to mature so is good value for money. A few years on, I now find it much more difficult to name any one particular bamboo as my favourite. There are many bamboos of hugely varying habit, character and quality that I would not be able to garden successfully without. All of my favourites are easy to recommend because I know the likely success a beginner will have with them, particularly when given the right information and advice to go with them. But be aware, success with bamboos can often become an addiction or an obsession, especially when you experience the individual beauty of bamboos, their ease of cultivation and their speedy transformation of a young plant into maturity. I know, because it has happened to me. After all, supplying a potential failure to someone with no previous experience with bamboos would be a tactless mistake – I’ve often been known to withhold or hide the rare and the difficult, even though very beautiful, from those new to bamboo, so failure is never an option.
However, the plants aside, the main object of this book is to portray and present a range of bamboos worthy of almost any garden situation. This reminds me of the second question I am most frequently asked, “Can you recommend a bamboo for...?” This question is invariably followed by one or more of a huge range of requests, such as screening from neighbours or eyesores, windbreaks, groves for the children to play in, pots on patios and roof gardens, pond-side features, preventing erosion on slopes or just for general use.  These are just some of the different qualities my customers look for (and find) in bamboos.        
During the last five decades, the way we now think, live and garden has dramatically changed. Gardening practices have generally become more adventurous, artistic and even flamboyant in style. Bamboos will undoubtedly continue to play an important part in the ever-changing approaches to modern gardening, but I would, however, urge you not to become too entrenched in “flavour of the month” gardening styles or fashions. In addition to this, don’t overly subscribe to the occasionally brash and/or mordant remarks of the media, which can utterly condemn a style or a particular plant group with a few written words or a brief rant from a garden presenter. These are usually individual preferences and do not stem from truths.
You should start with an understanding of your own preferences, needs and styles, a few ideas to build upon and a little guidance. I am writing this book to help you choose wisely and limit your mistakes, but most of all to enlighten you to the endless possibilities for using bamboos in your garden.

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